Ace Rallies as CEO Evan Greenberg Touts Crop Insurance

Ace Rallies as Greenberg Touts Crop Insurance
Corn plants damaged by extreme heat and drought conditions in Carmi, Illinois, on July 11, 2012. Photographer: Daniel Acker/Bloomberg

Ace Ltd., the Swiss company with operations in more than 50 nations, advanced the most since November after touting long-term prospects of crop insurance amid the worst U.S. Midwest drought in more than two decades.

Ace jumped 4.5 percent to $72.31 at 4:02 p.m. in New York. The Zurich-based company, which also provides commercial coverage, accident-and-health protection and reinsurance, gained

3.1 percent this year, compared with the 3.7 percent climb in the 77-company Bloomberg World Insurance Index.

“Crop insurance is a great business over any period of time,” Chief Executive Officer Evan Greenberg said on a conference call today. “Right now, while earnings are under more pressure, they’re still expected to be reasonable.”

Insurers that back U.S. farmers against production declines could suffer their first underwriting loss since 2002 as dry weather threatens harvests, Iowa State University’s Bruce Babcock said last week. Projected third-quarter crop losses prompted the company to include a deduction of 19 cents a share in its full-year earnings forecast.

Second-quarter operating income, which excludes some investment results, climbed 10 percent to $743 million as Greenberg raised prices for commercial coverage, Ace said late yesterday. The company is benefiting from growth in Latin America and Asia, the CEO said.

Ace’s forecast for full-year operating earnings per share was lifted by 17 cents to a range of $7.20 to $7.60 as benefits tied to reserves and lower-than-expected first-half catastrophe losses outweigh the expected crop damage. Gregory Locraft, an analyst at Morgan Stanley, credited the insurer for prospering amid the drought.

“We’re living through the worst crop loss probably in the history of the industry,” Locraft said on the call. “These results are amazing.”

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